Haptics and Proxemics

With the globalization and business expansion characterizing the modern world, it is undeniable that the workplace is rapidly becoming vast. Thus, it is important for every organization to strike a balance and accommodate different cultures represented. It is important for one to have a conscious awareness of how the nonverbal communication displayed affects how messages are received. This paper aims at answering the question why human resource (HR) managers should learn about haptics and proxemics, which are two important nonverbal communication techniques.

Why HR Managers Should Learn about Haptics

All HR managers should learn about haptics because it brings some advantages to the organization. By learning about haptics, the will establish what works for different cultures represented in the company, which helps avoid disrespect for cultures and subsequently promote a suitable working environment for all people. Such positive nonverbal communication in the workplace helps foster healthy business relationships (Marques, 2010). The issue of touch is experienced and expressed in an array of ways, including but not limited to pats, cheek kisses, and handshakes, among others. Touching is an important aspect of expressing emotions or feelings. For instance, it is common for a person to pat one on the back as a congratulatory sign. However, as various cultures interpret touching differently, HR managers should learn about haptics to know what is acceptable and what is offensive (Keyton et Al., 2013).

The fact that touch holds culturally specific meanings presupposes that the positive power generated by touch is likely to be countered by the potential to be interpreted and connected to sexual harassment or viciousness. Therefore, by learning about haptics, HR managers will advise other employees on how to behave when with their colleagues. The Indian culture, for example, does not encourage touch between people who are not close. Thus, female employees might be offended when managers or other workers hold their hand or pat them on the back. The Arab culture, on the other hand, is a high contact culture, though with some restrictions. By learning about haptics, HR managers will promote a positive environment, help reduce issues of sexual harassment, and will know the best way to conduct themselves during business meetings comprising of people from different cultures.

Why HR Managers Should Learn about Proxemics

Business associates in, for example, Latin America, are likely to have little social distances maintained between them compared to those from Northern America. This difference demonstrates that the distance that people need and the distance that they perceive to belong to them are influenced by an array of factors, including characteristics, familiarity level, and norms, among others (Barker & Pearce, 1990). Thus, it is important for HR managers to learn about proxemics to ensure the accommodation of all cultures in the business environment. Edward Hall asserted that the differences in cultural contexts aimed at describing and organizing space are assumed by people unconsciously. Therefore, it is simple to have destructive communication failures and lack of understanding in a cross-cultural environment (Marques, 2010).

By learning about proxemics, HR managers will know the space that employees should maintain, especially those who work in an environment with a high cultural integration. For example, what might be perceived as a personal space in American culture can be interpreted as an intimate space among other cultures. This can create an uncomfortable environment for employees. In the event of an associate business meeting, if HR managers do not brief the members on the appropriate distances and space to maintain, different people might interpret the scenario as a sign of rudeness, and territoriality might result. For instance, in the Chinese culture, there is an acceptable distance that the opposite sexes should maintain. Ignoring such issues might create a negative environment in organizations, which will subsequently affect the productivity of employees.

Strategies for Employee Training

There is no single sure way of training employees on haptics and proxemics. However, one approach would be to hold sessions where discussions of the two aspects are held. A good example of such a platform would be in a seminar organized by the organization. Facilitators and speakers from various countries may be invited for the employees to gain an insight into different cultures. Periodic training would also be a good strategy of equipping workers with knowledge on the same. Such training should focus on both new and existing employees. For the existing workers, familiarity might lower the disregard for haptics and proxemics (Wickhorst & Geroy, 2006). Thus, training would help restore the need to respect the same. Further, the employees can air their views on the two aspects, which will help demonstrate that a clear cut way of addressing the issue does not exist, but they have to apply due diligence in different situations.

Haptics or Proxemics?

Though both haptics and proxemics are important, I believe that proxemics takes precedence over haptics because everything stems from personal space. One has to get close enough to others to touch them and hence, knowing what space is perceived important to others allows one to make prudent decisions. In the organization, people who invade other people’s space are common; thus, teaching them the need to respect people’s need for space is important. For instance, they can be encouraged to maintain arm’s length not to invade others’ personal space. As an HR manager, I would make proxemics part of the new employee training. This is a sure way of promoting individual space, which helps promote respect and integration of cultures. Once employees have respect for personal space, haptics-related issues can be easily addressed.

Conclusion

Culture helps people interpret experiences and generate behavior. Respecting personal space and haptics are ways of promoting a positive working environment in the organization. As all people have sensorium differently programmed, it is important for HR managers to learn and understand haptics and proxemics, as it will help companies build positive business relationships, especially among employees.

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